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What Leaders Can Learn From a Guy Called Maslow…

If you can’t tell by now, I love nothing more than learning how humans (and animals for that matter) interact with each other and their environments, getting a sense for what makes them tick or understanding why things goes wrong. Something I cannot get enough of is Behavioural Economics and I strongly advocate for everyone in the business world to dedicate a little bit of time to exploring the topic. Behavioural Economics, despite being a relatively new field in the scheme of things, brings a new dimension of understanding to why people undertake certain actions, encompassing the critical element of human nature that so often lacks in traditional Economics Theory. In this post I want to focus on the concept of “self-actualisation” aka being the best you can be. In response, I will take a deep dive into Marlow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and how it can play a huge roll in motivating team members to be effective and happy at work. At each step I will take you through real life examples of what I am trying to do with our team in order to embrace the concept.

So before we get cracking, let me quickly introduce you to this guy: Abraham Maslow. Maslow is arguably one the most positive psychologists to ever exist, having lead the “positive psychology movement” where by he argued that humans innately seek to reach their full potential, as long as their basic needs are met. This is where his pyramid comes in, illustrating the needs of humans in order to reach the top goal of “self actualisation.” This theory was first presented in 1943 in a paper called “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review and is still widely referred to today.

Level 1. Physiological – The basic things we need to live (and no, as surprising as this may be, WIFI is not one of them)

Breathing, drinking, sleeping, having sex and using the bathroom… you get the picture. These are base elements of living and should not be hard for you as an employer to cater to (well… most of them). One obvious way is ensuring your team have a fair salary that ensures they can purchase food, have a good bed to sleep in and fresh air to breathe. Here at Tadaweb, and as illustrated in a previous post, we provide quite a lot of food to our employees including: lunch vouchers everyday, fresh baking, team lunches and bio fruit box that gets delivered each week. Quite frankly, happy tummies make happy teams.

Level 2. Safety - Feeling secure, safe and appreciated

So let’s face it. “Security” (financial at least) and “startups” rarely go together hand in hand. With such a high percentage of startups failing, 90% according to Forbes… it’s not wonder. But don’t think this makes achieving this second layer impossible for young companies. In times of uncertainty there is nothing more imperative than solid, trustworthy and safe leadership. The types of leaders that can track and manage a dwindling bank balance coupled with an increasing burn rate, while at the same time remaining strong, positive and appropriately honest in the presence of their employees. Having leaders that build a sense of safety is crucial in ticking off the second layer, and here at Tadaweb we place a large effort on ensuring the team feel safe and appreciated.

Level 3. Belonging – Ensuring everyone feels apart of the team

One of the things I care about the most when building my company is culture. Creating a happy and successful team culture no easy task, in fact it’s a very tricky balancing act. For us especially, on hand we have very serious customers who trust us to deliver very important products, on the other hand we are a team of young, crazy, yet highly talented people who like to have fun. Finding the middle ground is important and once achieved can be a massive part of making everyone feel part of the same journey. One way achieve this, is our team building days which happen through out the year. Be it exploring a brewery and learning how beer is made, or running through the streets on a halloween scavenger hunt, there are a number of small things that can be done to ensure the team are secure. Another thing we have done recently is order “team swag.” Sporting psychology has taught us a lot about how sport can unite people, in multiple ways, including the wearing of a common uniform. So go try it.

Level 4. Esteem – Feeling supported and recognised

Research has shown that recognition means more when it comes from your coworkers. Giving employees the power to set their own challenges, and corresponding solutions can be an extremely empowering experience. What I have found time and time again is that when you work with the right people, freedom can be hugely beneficial for positive results. Micro-management on the other hand is the enemy of building esteem. Here at Tada the team are given a lot of freedom to push their own boundaries and are there to witness the positives when the pull it off. Embracing the notion of each team have their own projects is great in ensuring praise is given accordingly when they pull of something crazy cool. When something super awesome happens, we celebrate it, and celebrate it well.

Level 5. Self Actualisation – “What a man can be, he must be”Maslow

Reaching self-actualisation is no easy task, in order to get this final layer, Maslow emphasised that the previous layers need to be mastered and I would add, “continually fostered”. However, once ‘self-actualisation’ is reached, anything you set your drive towards is possible. You are not limited by worrying about food, housing, loneliness or lack of self-esteem, you are in fighting mode, reading to rip apart your challenges. It is an ideal situation and once you have a team in this mode, there is no stopping you. No challenge is to big. I think reaching this step is also helped by being surrounded by “motivators” to get there. Here at Tada, we constantly emphasise the notion of “nothing is impossible.” We are driven by the quote “qui ne tente rien, n’a rien” (which translates to, if you don’t try you won’t know) and you will hear the world “confiant” (confident) used by team through out the day. It is here when we can build the technology we know we are capable of and get the deals we have always dreamed of.



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